Friday, June 11, 2010

Staying Open

It is many years now, a long time past the moment I realized the essential honesty of the spiritual walk. For many years I misconstrued sincerity for honesty. I mean I genuinely didn’t know the difference in some essential way, could not have told you I was dishonest but also would not have been forthright at all in certain areas, believing all the time that it just wasn’t your business.

I have written here before in other contexts of the work I did with my partner who was a licensed clinical psychologist. For several years we ran a group therapy in the late seventies as a team, partly as a seminar in astrology, and partly as exploratory therapeutics, delineating astrology and what it might mean in this context as well as what the experience of seeing one’s life through this template could mean. My partner was enthused, saying he got to places using astrology that he could never go without it in the group setting. Oddly, when it was his turn or mine in the “hot seat”, things didn’t go as well. For me things would often get really strange and I was all the time struggling to find a way to communicate so that the group members would not be so aggressive with me and me so defensive. All this time later I can know and have known for my entire sobriety that while I was totally sincere, I was less than honest with them.

I did not know then. I sort of knew. Here is mainly what stopped me. I would have had to talk about my drinking openly in order to open myself more with them, and my drinking, I was sure was none of their business. That was right too. They were not the people to entrust that issue with. Without that, however, I could not go to the levels they needed me to go. I had to dodge and deflect into the astrology too much and too little of me was there. They were of course simply trying to do with me what I was doing with them. Real work got done in many of our meetings, but seldom with either my partner or me. We took our turns in the hot seat in the spirit of the group. I did not pretend in any way, did not claim I did not drink, but my sharing about that sort of stuff stopped with my earlier drug use. I was completely open about that, but I would never have said how I would be going home and getting drunk before going to sleep, especially on group meeting nights. Hammer down. Need to get to sleep…

Staying Open

It's everything
I must learn, my entire life-
no good can come from
ducking this great task.
Then I will simply repeat this life
in some other form.

That's what my love said to me.
I agreed. Then I muttered,

It cuts deeper too.
How about this misery?
Depression, anguish?
This uneasiness?
I do not know the changes
these work inside me.

June 5, 2009 12:45 PM


  1. This, for me, is what I was living (perhaps, or at least in part.) I was living sincerely with my husband throughout our marriage but not honestly. I was not honestly allowing me to be me, or to be fair, allowing him to be him. It was some sort of construct to be a better family. I, the real me, doesn't operate inside of that kind of construct. It's unnatural for me. And so while I wasn't purposely being insincere, I was being dishonest. I don't think that I was being insincere at all. He doesn't understand that my now, does not negate my past. My past was real. I was just at a different stage of knowing myself and being honest with myself in the world. He would think this is all bullshit, a deflection. It is more real than anything, and primarily the reason why we can't be together any more. There is a chasm so wide in how we philosophically see the world, how we want to see, or how we don't want to see.

    As much as you didn't/couldn't say the truth in those meetings, I have to curb my true story here, the whole story. Sometimes we do these things because the time is not right. Sometimes we do these things because we are not ready. Sometimes we are protecting things, but I yearn for a time when I can speak more freely because I think that if I see my words in type I might have more opportunity to learn.

    I have learned in retrospect, also, and so some things that I told him along the way, things that were sincere then, are not the whole truth of it now. I suspect more will be revealed as I keep looking to understand.

    I think too of a friend I had in University, an incredibly smart woman who was a very devout Catholic who needed a belief structure to express her truth. She came to a point of rejecting Catholicism and became instead a very devout Wicca. I couldn't then understand the sincerity in her dramatic change. I do now.

    (Hope you're feeling better.)

  2. Erin, I believe we have become very good friends in this weird blogging way. Your willingness to respond to my transparency here signals me that we have built trust between us. This kind of openness is childlike. I believe it is the heart of the message of Christ Who said, "Let the little children come to Me."

    It is also one expression of the path to the kind of openness or spaciousness the Buddhists declare is essential for seeing the truth.

    Honesty is not sincerity, though sincerity is prerequisite. Niether is honesty equivalent to knowing the truth, though honesty is a prerequisite. In fact, in between honesty and knowing the truth there is something else, and that is what we can use the terms openness, spaciousness, and transparency to point to.

    All of this is bundled in the pith of the saying used in AA, "You are as sick as your secrets." This is why in AA, as in the Catholic church, people will stress confession of shortcomings and suggest the use of priest, intercessor, or sponsor, a trusted intermediary between immature truth telling and the glare of a more complete honesty. It also is the spiritual backdrop of the use of counselors or psychologists in our so-called modern humanist societies.

    A trusted friend helps. A circle of trusted friends is better. Adding then an intercessor is better yet, and more circles of trusted friends.

    That you, Erin, are willing to open this much in response to my stories is a very good thing for us both but as well for the anonymous readers here.

    I reply to you that you may need someone to really speak or write to in a more private setting as you travel your path to and through your transparency. Their guidance will not be about the truth as such but about how not to get lost as you find your own way. This is why counselors (or gurus) can be effective even if they themselves are only partial. They can have a nose for the path even if they have not yet trod that far down it, once they have got certain basic steps down.

    I was effective in my group in the seventies even though I would be more effective now. Every step along the way is crucial. It is crucial to be sincere, to open beyond sincerity and begin to be honest, to open beyond honesty, to begin to be truly spacious, to come to the truth as it is, to open beyond that even, there to shine as young buddhas do, and to return at every stage to engage the world anew with the newly revealed ways of love and compassion now possible. This is indeed the way of the Bodhisattvas.

    It is all grist for the mill. It is all a lifework and beyond that, the clarification of spirit essential to the life of the universe, to the universe yearning for a unity both lost and still to come.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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